Not everyone needs a CPA and you don’t want to target clients with simple tax situations in order to convince them why they should be paying more. However, you do want to be working with people with complex situations who need you and know it.
Your best opportunities for future business may be among your current clients. But which clients do you help the most and who has the best potential? After examining your clientele you will likely identify commonalities, whether they are retail business owners, real estate developers, manufacturers or self-employed.
The next step is to recall how you originally acquired those clients. If you bought or inherited the practice, that might be a dead end, but if you got them through referrals or advertising that’s another story. Consider going back to that strategy.
Another approach is to look at professional associations in your area. You may already belong to the local chapter of one of the many groups for CPAs. But while the benefits are obvious (i.e. CPE, networking, advocacy, the sense of community etc.) you won’t necessarily find business there.
Your ideal clients likely have a professional association aligned to their business. Do some research to identify the local groups associated with their professions. Visit those websites and if the membership directory is available to the public, scan to determine if your client is a member. If so, they may be able to provide practical advice on how the organization works.
Regardless of the answer, determine if the organization has an Associate Membership category. These groups often (but not always) have a class of membership for people not directly employed in the profession, yet providing a product or service used by members of the profession.
Take for example the San Antonio Manufacturers Association. They have 500+ members. In addition to standard memberships, they have associate membership and sponsor classes of membership. The associate members are often banks, law firms, staffing services and the occasional accounting firm.
The next step is to dig into their website. Does the professional association you discovered have regular meetings, offer seminars, hold trade shows or an annual conference? Do they have a publication, either in print or online?
Where Does the Business Come From?
So how does membership lead to business? A Texas banker involved in one of these organizations was told: “You get out what you put in.” Woody Allen said: “80% of success is showing up.”
- Attendance at meetings and events – It’s a networking opportunity. People get to know who you are, what you do and your familiarity with their industry.
- Trade Shows – You setup a booth. Send manufacturers away with packets.
- Seminars – Your chance to makes taxes understandable to the audience, explain tax law changes.
- Publications – The opportunity to write a regular column.
Pros and Cons
Why bother? This takes time and money and competitors may already be members.
- You’ve analyzed your business and found you work well with a certain type of client. You help them. They pay you.
- You’ve found a group that attracts similar business owners in the same field. Theoretically, everyone has the potential to be the right type of client.
- You can increase your visibility through attendance, speaking and possibly writing.
- This costs money. Dues. Event fees. What’s my return?
- How long will it take to get business?
- Involvement takes time. I don’t have that much spare time.
One of the best ways to get away from competing with the mass market tax preparation services and offering traditional compliance work is to identify clients who can benefit most from your expertise. Determine if there’s a professional association where similar people gather and insert yourself into the mix, it will be a great start towards getting the clients you want.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon.com.